Every time I think "the end" is near, the novel requires more from me, forcing me to walk roads I've never traveled, to fight enemies in disguise and to use weapons that are unwieldy in my hands. "I am not equipped for this," I complain, but the story does not listen. It expects me to do what must be done.
I do not know how to do something? So what, shrugs the story. Learn.
"I can write short stories and poems in my sleep," I boast in a cry-baby whine. "I can conduct interviews in a single bound. Why can't I just stick with them? Novels hurt too much."
Who wants to sleep away his years? the manuscript demands. Then, in a sly reminder of The Dread Pirate Roberts, it stares at me and says, Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.
"Yeah, yeah." I sigh and pick up my trusty pen. "I hear ya."
Don't you just hate it when inanimate objects are right? They can be so smug.
Being away from a lengthy manuscript can cause memory lapses, and the creative muscles can grow stiff. This afternoon, I read excerpts from existing pages, reorienting myself in the characters' journeys, both the physical travels in which feet meet dirt and the internal odysseys where souls brush against one another. Often the inside story is where the action is.
My goal as a writer is to present stories that move along at a brisk pace yet never let the reader fall behind; tales that speak to the spirit while leaping over chasms. I've come close to that goal in short stories. A novel, however, is uncharted territory where I, the intrepid explorer, have to make my own maps. Not an easy task, even with a compass and rudimentary drawing skills.
It's taken me years to traverse the same ground that other novelists skip over in months. Why bother? I must not have it in me to reach the end. But, even when I whine, I cannot stop. I must do this. I have to prove to myself that I can. I refuse not to grow.
Bette Davis, that raspy-voiced actress who could do nasty so well, once said, "This became a credo of mine: Attempt the impossible to improve your work."
Monday, March 23, 2009
Bette Davis and The Dread Pirate Roberts Redux
Here's a re-run, a portion of an entry originally posted on January 5, 2007. Over a year later, it's still true, even though one fantasy manuscript has been completed, and the second is almost three-quarters complete. Despite the progress, I'm still not satisfied, and I keep reading the work of other writers that I am convinced is so much better than mine that I can't hope to compete. Whinge, whinge, whinge. That's a writer for ya.